Gardaí told Ian Bailey’s partner he confessed to murder

Gardaí ‘aggressive’ in questioning during 12 hours in custody, Jules Thomas tells High Court

Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas arrive at the Four Courts in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas arrive at the Four Courts in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Artist Jules Thomas said gardaí told her Ian Bailey had confessed to the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier when he “never had” done so.

“I didn’t believe it,” she told the High Court.

Ms Thomas, Mr Bailey’s long-term partner, said it happened when she and Mr Bailey were being separately questioned at Bandon Garda station on February 12th 1997 in connection with the December 1996 murder.

She said she never accepted Mr Bailey was the murderer and did not tell gardaí she did not want to see him. Instead she said that if he had committed the murder, she never wanted to see him again.

During her 12-hour detention, she claimed gardaí were “aggressive”, “horrible”, “banging fists on the table”, “really intimidating” and kept saying Mr Bailey had done it, she said. “I was very frightened.”

They got “very angry with me” and kept saying, “come on, tell the truth. Jim Fitzgerald was one of the worst. He just seemed incensed with me.”

Material had been omitted from, and added to, the Garda notes concerning what she said, she claimed. She signed statements but hadn’t read them: they were read to her, she said. While her solicitor advised her to sign nothing, she had nothing to hide, she said.

There was a 17-page handwritten statement but, when that was later produced, it was “only 11 pages so something had been cut out”, she said.

Gardaí also tried to get her to look at photos of the dead woman but she refused, she said: “I did not want that image in my head.”

She was very sympathetic to the dead woman’s family: it was “a very, very awful thing to happen to anyone”.

She said her second arrest, in 2000, was also traumatic and horrible with gardaí insisting she tell the truth. When gardaí came to her home to arrest her, she was in bed and had to dress in front of a woman garda who went into the bathroom with her and “stood over me” while she went to the toilet.

Clearly upset, Ms Thomas said the woman garda later told her, on the way to Bandon, “how useless my past relationships were” and “made me feel just as low as you could go”.

At the station in Bandon, gardaí were “very angry” she had made complaint about the statements taken during her first arrest, she added.

Ms Thomas was giving evidence in the continuing action by Mr Bailey against the Garda Commissioner and the State. They deny his claims, including of wrongful arrest and conspiracy, arising from the Garda investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found near Toormore, Schull, on December 23rd 1996.

In reply to Jim Duggan BL, for Mr Bailey, Ms Thomas said that about a week after the February 12th arrests of Mr Bailey and herself, their home at The Prairie, Schull, was phoned about midnight.

She answered it and a man, who she believed to be Garda Det Jim Fitzgerald, told her to “get the f*ck out, get the f*ck out”, she said. A similar message was given to Mr Bailey when the phone rang a second time soon after, she said.

It was “very frightening” when the forces of law behaved “illegally” and Mr Bailey complained about the call to Harcourt Street Garda station in Dublin, she said. She and Mr Bailey also complained to the minister for justice about their arrests.

Earlier, she gave evidence of being assaulted by Mr Bailey on three separate occasions: in 1993, 1996 and 2001. She suffered bruising as a result of first assault where she was pushed “very hard” against a wall; a black eye and hair pulled out on the second and more bruising on the third. His behaviour was “appalling”, he was “very remorseful” afterwards but there was “no excuse for violence”.

He had gone to England for a time after the third assault for which he received a three-month suspended sentence. While she considered his behaviour “kind of unforgiveable”, she had forgiven him “because I do believe there is good in everyone”.

While she and Mr Bailey had had some “great” times before late 1996, life since had changed very much: they were isolated and had lost all their friends after gardaí “tainted” them. Her health had suffered, she finds it difficult to paint and only had enough work to keep going “at a subsistence level”.

Later, under cross-examination by Paul O’Higgins SC, Ms Thomas said she made some errors when filling in a Garda questionnaire concerning her movements between December 22nd and 23rd 1996 because she got her days mixed up but had corrected the errors in a second questionnaire.

She had heard Mr Bailey tell journalist Helen Callanan over the phone, “Yeah, I committed the murder” but that was “not meant to be taken seriously at all”, she said. Statements suggesting Mr Bailey had a knowledge of matters that were hard to account for were made by people who had “good reason to lie”, she added.

She did not trust the gardaí dealing with the investigation, she said.

When asked if it was not reasonable for gardaí to suspect a man with a history of violence towards women, she said there had been a “handful” of local incidents of “alcoholic violence towards wives” but that was “not considered on the same level as murder.

“Finding a motive would be much more a line to go down,” she said.

When counsel suggested she was arrested because gardaí believed she was covering up for Mr Bailey, not because they believed she had anything to do with the murder, she said that was not made clear to her. “I told them I would never cover a murderer.”

The cross-examination continues.